Whew, the world is entitled to exhale in relief now that the reign of error by US President Donald Trump is over. His dismal record of endless deception and disruption can be discarded into the dustbin of history.
One of President-elect Joe Biden’s highest priorities once he takes office will be to restore the integrity of the US constitution and reaffirm that America remains a democracy. The constitution is the sacred document that the soon to be ex-president and his sidekick and co-conspirator, Attorney General Bill Barr, have sent to the shredder.
But that narrative needs to be written by someone more qualified. He or she should consult the daily YouTube series by Glenn Kirschner for a rich repository of evidence that could put Trump and Barr in jail.
Biden needs China
I would like to address a high-priority repair that is of urgent immediacy for the sake of the future of not only Biden’s term of office but for America. I am referring to the need to turn the bilateral relations between the US and China around.
This will not be easy for Biden because demonizing China has had bipartisan support in Washington. Yet failing to do so would cost the US dearly in terms of lives and well-being. It’s literally the difference between prosperity and economic depression, and more importantly between war or peace.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made a shambles of US relations with the rest of the world. If Biden were to take an opposite approach on virtually any of Pompeo’s policies, it would be the correct course of action. This logic surely applies to China.
One particularly dangerous situation that the Trump administration, with Pompeo in the lead, has created is regarding Taiwan. They have deliberately flirted with the third rail in US-China relations by sending ranking officials to visit Taipei and by selling a bounty of arms including offensive weapons to Taiwan.
Until Trump took over the White House, every American president since Richard Nixon had agreed to the Shanghai Communiqué, and had abided by the principle that there is one China and Taiwan is part of China. To recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation is to risk war, as Trump has edged close to doing, abetted by some of the more rabid Republican senators.
What’s worse, the Taipei government led by President Tsai Ing-wen and the independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party has been deluded by Pompeo et al. Tsai is under the impression that if she were to declare independence and provoke an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army, the US military would come to her aid.
Therefore, Biden’s first action in the Oval Office must be to tell the Pentagon to stand down and back off from the Taiwan Strait while he sends a message to Tsai that Washington is no longer interested in provoking death and destruction on the island of Taiwan.
The military leaders in the Pentagon will be relieved that they won’t have to send young American men and women – yes, the ones Trump calls “losers” and “suckers” – into harm’s way on the other side of the world.
Next on the agenda is for the incoming Biden administration to figure out how to reboot relations with China and embark on a path of collaboration and mutual beneficial development. America’s economic health and well-being depend on it.
Throw out the ‘blame China’ playbook
The determined rendering of China as America’s enemy has been “one hand clapping.” “Blame everything on China” was the Republican playbook for the 2020 election campaign. The disastrous outcome – for the Republicans – on November 3 should be enough incentive for Biden to toss that playbook straight into the trashcan.
The Democrats have been as hostile to China as the Republicans have, but on the grounds of accusing Beijing of rampant violations of human rights. This point of view is based on nothing but xenophobia and ignorance.
Through decades of concerted efforts, the Beijing leadership working with the local governments has lifted more than 800 million citizens out of poverty. To Beijing, all lives matter, and this is the Chinese leadership’s way of respecting the basics of human rights.
In contrast, the US speaks loudly as the self-anointed standard bearer of democracy and upholder of human rights. All the while, people of color in America are discouraged from casting their ballots, are subject to police harassment including being shot for no cause, and find no government helping hand to get them out of poverty.
The Ash Center, part of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, recently released a study tracking Chinese people’s approval of their government for over a decade. The survey result shows an approval rate of more than 93%, or roughly twice that for Americans of their own government. Hardly the sentiment of an oppressed populace.
The bipartisan desire to put down China has been based on racial bias or holier-than-thou-ideology. But continuing this hostile zero-sum game with China will not help Biden reverse the downward spiral of the US economy. Distributing checks in the name of economic stimulus cannot go on indefinitely. Sooner or later, the checks will bounce.
Biden can create jobs with China
The only way Biden can create real jobs, as he promised in his election campaign, is to boost the economy on Main Street, not Wall Street. It’s no exaggeration that he can’t do it without working with China. Trump tried to decouple from China and the outcome has been a total disaster.
Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping see eye to eye on the need to deal with climate change. Together, they can reinvigorate the Paris Accord and lead a global effort to halt and then reverse the emission of greenhouse gases. That’s an easy starter to rebuilding US-China relations.
China has made advances in solar and wind energy, and the companies in those industries are ready to serve the American market by putting manufacturing plants in the US. All the Biden administration has to do is the change the regulations that are biased against investments from China.
Most countries welcome foreign investment for manufacturing, whether from China or any other nation, because such investments create jobs. But imbeciles in Washington have taken a twisted view that Chinese investments are for the purpose of stealing from America.
As I reported last year, China’s CRRC Corporation has established two assembly plants to assemble subway cars for major US cities. The cars are state-of-the-art, cost 20% less than any competition, have more than 60% local content, and created 150 jobs at each of the two locations.
So far, the company has contracts with Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. CRRC was hoping to enter deals with New York and Washington until paranoia in Congress stopped the development on the grounds that subway cars could be used for spying. Really? Better to let wild accusations dominate the conversation than for cities to replace rickety old coaches with new ones at bargain prices?
China’s experience and expertise can also help Biden fulfill the need to restore America’s infrastructure. One example is New Jersey-based China Construction America. CCA has been operating in the US for 35 years.
About 10 years ago, CCA rebuilt the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in northern Manhattan, doubling the four lanes to eight, and completed the project ahead of schedule and on budget. It was the largest single contract construction project, at US$407 million, ever awarded by the State of New York.
When Trump came into office, he talked – a lot – about public/private partnership for renewing infrastructure in America. Just talk, nothing ever got done during his term in office. On the other hand, there are a lot of Chinese companies like the CCA just waiting for the opportunity to participate in the US. They can bid for projects that will mean cost savings for state and federal governments while creating construction-related jobs for American workers.
China has a demonstrated record of infrastructure building and has taken its proven expertise around the world as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. There is no reason China could not bring that managerial and planning ability to the US. All it would take is to treat the Chinese as partners without racial bias.
China’s economy can give the US a lift
Another important reason to want to work with Beijing is that China will be the economic engine to drive the global economy for the foreseeable future. China has already recovered from the Covid-19 epidemic and is showing economic growth while the economies of all other countries, including the US, are still shrinking.
China has the world’s largest middle class, with a population of more than 400 million. China’s import market is more than $2 trillion annually. Biden’s top priority for his new secretary of commerce should be to help American businesses sell to China and establish bases inside China.
Participating in China’s expanding economy is the best and perhaps only way for the US to accelerate its recovery. American companies already in China can tell you that their sales there are making up for their losses elsewhere in the world.
To bring Covid-19 under control, another of Biden’s major campaign promises, will require China and the US to work together. Both are working feverishly to develop vaccines to combat the coronavirus. Being the first country or company to develop an effective vaccine is not the key. What is important is how the vaccines will be distributed so as to eliminate the coronavirus around the world in a most expeditious manner.
Pompeo’s idea of “me first” and “me only” for the US is idiocy. Even if America breaks free from the virus while the rest of world is still suffering from the contagion, the US will not be able to keep other parts of world from re-infecting the US. It’s a global pandemic and needs a global solution that the US along with China and World Health Organization can devise together.
The current zero-sum game requires constant demonizing of China until the rhetoric reaches fever pitch. A recent example is the hysterical lamentation by US Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite. He takes an orientation trip to the Asia-Pacific region and comes back terrorized by what his overactive imagination tells him of China, but his nightmare has no relation to the reality of what China is actually doing.
There is no evidence that China is about to become a military adversary of the US. China can be a formidable economic adversary but only if the US wants that way.
K J Noh and I have outlined a course of action for the Biden administration in Asia Times. The overall strategy is really simple. He just needs to find the many collaborative ways for both countries to win.
George Koo retired from a global advisory services firm where he advised clients on their China strategies and business operations. Educated at MIT, Stevens Institute and Santa Clara University, he is the founder and former managing director of International Strategic Alliances. He is currently a board member of Freschfield’s, a novel green building platform.